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What Is the South Australian Museum?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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The South Australian Museum is a popular tourist attraction in Adelaide, Australia. This five-story structure is packed full of exhibits that highlight the people, history, and culture of Australia. While all of Australia is represented inside the museum, special emphasis is placed on the Aboriginal culture. In fact, the South Australian Museum houses the largest collection of Aboriginal artifacts anywhere in the world. This facility also includes a large research center and numerous education and enrichment programs.

In 1847, the South Australian Institute was founded in Adelaide. The Institute included both a library and a regional history museum. One of the first curators at the facility was Frederick George Waterhouse, who had previously acted as a curator at the British Museum in London. Waterhouse immediately began a campaign designed to branch the museum off as a separate organization from the Institute. In 1939, the museum gained its independence, and the name was changed to the South Australian Museum.

Exhibits at the South Australian Museum are divided into two wings. The east wing houses Aboriginal art and artifacts, and focuses on local culture and social history. It includes displays such as a boomerang, as well as traditional folk art. In the west wing, exhibits center around geology and natural science. Visitors can spot numerous gems and stones, including one of the largest gold nuggets in the world, along with the remains of dinosaurs and other ancient lifeforms.

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The South Australian Museum also features a comprehensive archive called the Science Centre, which is open to the public from Monday through Friday. At the Science Centre, guests can access original documents and artifacts, including an entire section devoted to the work of Douglas Mawsom. Mawsom was an Australian geologist who collected hundreds of natural artifacts and animal remains from Australia and Antarctica during the early part of the 20th century. His entire collection and all of his scientific research documents are housed in the archives.

Those who are on a tight budget when visiting Australia may wish to take advantage of the free admission at the South Australian Museum. The facility is open seven days and week, and trained guides offer free daily tours of the various collections. Though regular access and tours are free, guests should be prepared to pay for special events and some temporary exhibits. A cafe and gift shop are on site as well.

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